Study reveals ISP-supplied broadband modems under-performing

Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The NBN is pushing to make 50Mbps download speeds (and 20Mbps upload) the norm in Australia, but many customers are opting for the 100Mbps speed tier when they sign up for a new connection. However, if you find you aren’t able to get those speeds, it may be the fault of your broadband modem.

A new study commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that several ISP-supplied modems are incapable of handling 100Mbps speeds on a fibre-to-the-node/building (FTTN/FTTB) connection.

The study has also found that several of these modems have poor Wi-Fi performance, further lowering the average download speeds the end user can expect.

If you can’t speed it up…

43 modems from 11 manufacturers and 10 ISPs were tested in laboratory conditions during December and January as part of the study – conducted by commercial testing firm Enex TestLab – and not one was able to deliver 100Mbps download speeds over a 450m copper stretch (the average length of copper on an FTTN connection). 

Most devices could only deliver 80% of the advertised speed.

In terms of Wi-Fi performance, 30% of the modems were unable to achieve 100Mbps on 2.4GHz over a range of 5m, which is unexpected as 2.4GHz is touted as the better option for long-range communication. Instead, tests showed that 5GHz Wi-Fi outperformed 2.4GHz.

With walls coming in the way of Wi-Fi signals, the study found that 26% of the modems tested could achieve 10Mbps download speeds on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, while 40% hit 80Mbps when using 5GHz Wi-Fi.

So if you find your Wi-Fi connection isn’t delivering the speeds you’re paying for, and you’re using a modem supplied by your ISP, you may want to switch bands to 5GHz.

Not enough advice

Only one modem out of the 43 was outright rejected for use on any NBN connection – that was the Linksys X6200 AC750.

Commenting on the results of the study, ACMA’s chair Nerida O'Loughlin said, “Telcos and modem suppliers need to provide good advice to consumers about the features and performance of individual modems, especially Wi-Fi performance.”

She advised consumers to question their chosen ISPs about “the performance they can expect from the modem supplied” before signing up for a new connection.

Sharmishta Sarkar
Managing Editor (APAC)

While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, Sharmishta's main priority is being TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor, looking after the day-to-day functioning of the Australian, New Zealand and Singapore editions of the site, steering everything from news and reviews to ecommerce content like deals and coupon codes. While she loves reviewing cameras and lenses when she can, she's also an avid reader and has become quite the expert on ereaders and E Ink writing tablets, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about these underrated devices. Other than her duties at TechRadar, she's also the Managing Editor of the Australian edition of Digital Camera World, and writes for Tom's Guide and T3.